Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #23
The greatness of a man is best measured by the fucked up nature of his deepest secrets. I don’t know who said that or if that’s something I just came up with while stoned, but I think it’s a statement with merit. This is an era where the concept of privacy is being strangled and stabbed repeatedly by the sinister forces of social media, selfies, and reality TV. What can we say about someone who is such a great guy publicly, but in private he enjoys strangling puppies and masturbating with their entrails? If we never knew his secrets, would he still be an asshole? Charles Xavier is one of those characters who used to have a squeaky clean public persona, much like Kobe Bryant. But unlike Kobe Bryant, that persona couldn’t just be tainted by boning some star-struck groupie. Xavier has gone from a kind, inspirational pacifist to the kind of guy who ditches his X-men when mutants are endangered, keeps Danger locked up for years, lusts after his teenage students, and mind-fucks his students when it’s convenient. He also apparently knocked up Mystique and didn’t have the good sense to divulge all the juicy details. The man’s credibility is lacking is all I’m saying. Now Uncanny X-men #23 promises to tie into Original Sin, an event that’s exposing all sorts of fucked up secrets. I don’t know how Charles Xavier could become less credible at this point without giving Apocalypse a reach-around, but I’m bracing myself and so should the X-men.
But there’s a lot more going on than just adding to the reasons why Charles Xavier was secretly an asshole. Cyclops and his New Xavier School just got through some pretty fucked up shit with SHIELD, Dark Beast, and Sentinels. Not only that, they now have Dazzler on their team, albeit in a very fucked up state of mind. It sounds only somewhat messier than a frat party gone horribly wrong. But by clearing the deck of all these dangling plots, it opens the door for new plots to develop. And as much as I want to read about Xavier’s deep, dark, and probably perverse secrets, I treat plots the same way I treat beautiful women. I’m all for variety.
One of these new plots involve something that occurred back during the Secret Invasion days. It was an exciting time. President Obama still had an approval rating worth bragging bout, nobody knew who the fuck Tim Howard was, and nobody thought in a billion years that Peyton Manning would be a Denver Bronco. It was a classic Independence Day style alien invasion, minus the watered down Will Smith effect. Some guy from Florida named Matthew was having a bad day. His girlfriend was leaving him, which always ranks near the top for “Days I Want To Shoot Myself.” Then, it’s somehow made even worse by a Skrull invasion. It’s not at all clear why this guy has it any rougher than any other guy whose girlfriend broke up with him on the same day as an alien invasion, but I’m going to assume a certain amount of conflict followed that might or might not have involved rectal probing.
Back in the present, the elaborate clusterfuck that is the legal machine gets kickstarted when She-Hulk gets a very important delivery. It’s actually a nice way to tie-in recent events in other Marvel books that don’t involve people getting shot or shit blowing up. She-Hulk just recently had a new solo series launched and in that series, she decided that she had spent enough time around asshole lawyers in expensive suits not paying her what she earned and constantly trying to look up her skirt so she started her own law firm. Now she’s probably the most intimidating lawyer in the world that doesn’t work for Rupert Murdoch. She won’t just argue a case. She’ll do it while bench pressing a metric ton. She’s probably the one most qualified to take on Xavier’s will. Sorry Matt Murdock, but I trust a super-powered woman with green skin to handle my affairs more than you. Hell, if I had her as my lawyer, my driving record would get pretty fucking clean real fast.
As this legal clusterfuck gets going, the aftermath of previous clusterfucks are still unfolding. Of the many characters who have been screwed over by recent events, Dazzler has had it the worst and she didn’t even bet on Brazil to win the World Cup. One day, she’s got a nice new job as an agent of SHIELD. The next, she’s drugged and turned into a living drug lab for Mystique. She’s not in a pleasant state of mind to say the least. She’s ready to skin Mystique alive, turn her entrails into tampons, and sell them to Cortney Love. Emma Frost, Magik, and Magneto attempt to help her by tracking Mystique down in Madripoor. However, she slipped away during the big Sentinel battle and is probably in another time zone sipping cocktails and getting knocked up by other members of the X-men.
It’s frustrating for Dazzler to say the very least, but what gives her frustration impact is how she deals with it. By that I mean, she could probably stand to get some therapy to develop new coping skills. The extent of her pain is pretty graphic. She is not the same strong, cute, pop star she was when she took her job with SHIELD. She went to so much trouble to save the multiverse from evil Charles Xaviers and now this happens to her. It’s a dramatic rise and fall that would stun Vanilla Ice himself, but this one has more drama and less shitty music.
Dazzler isn’t the only one dealing with trauma. In fact, Cyclops has been coping with trauma for most of his life. He lost his parents, two wives, and killed his surrogate father in a Phoenix-fueled rage. I’m not sure there’s enough therapy between Opera and Dr. Phil to help Cyclops, but he still deals with it. And as he’s watching over the students at the New Xavier School, he flashes back to his recent most trauma that didn’t involve a former lover. It may feel like it has been a while since Xavier died for us, but for Cyclops it’s still fresh in his mind and it still torments him. It might be repentant for us, but given the context of this story, it’s a nice reminder of what he’s dealing with.
This also puts him in a position to help Tempus, who also has been coping with some crazy shit that doesn’t involve Phoenix-fueled murder. It happened several issues back, but Tempus had an incident with her powers that fucked her up, although compared to Dazzler she might as well be a fucking Mormon. It leads a nice, yet tense conversation between them. Before, Tempus was just a teenage girl with a sexy Australian accent who had the hots for Cyclops as so many women do, especially telepaths. Now she’s frustrated with him, as so many women often are. But she comes off as the less mature one, having not had to deal with a fraction of the shit Cyclops has dealt with. He says he already knows what happened to her, but he wants her to muster up the courage to tell him. I can see how that would be pretty annoying from the perspective of an irrational teenager, but as an adult it shows that Cyclops hasn’t let the trauma stop him from being the mentor he needs to be to young mutants. It’s still frustrating to teenage girls, but I imagine some of them will still find it sexy on some levels.
Things get decidedly less sexy when legal issues once again enter the picture. Armed with Xavier’s will, She-Hulk pays a visit to the Jean Grey Institute. I imagine the thought of Xavier having a will had crossed the minds of his students before. Being a somewhat eccentric rich guy, they might have assumed he just left it to his cat or donated it a men’s baldness support group. But it still has an impact on them because like Cyclops, the death of Charles Xavier is still fresh in their minds. And this is one of those things that actually has real-life parallels. Even for those of us who don’t have super-powered or sexy green-skinned lawyers have to deal with this shitty process of dealing with a loved one’s will. I can only imagine how much worse it’ll get once the IRS gets involved.
There are other pragmatic issues to be addressed on Cyclops’ side as well, but these are the kinds that don’t need overpriced lawyers. Once Magneto, Emma, and Magik return with Dazzler, he starts confronting them in a way I’m sure more teenage girls will find sexy. First, there’s Dazzler, but she’s in the kind of state where nobody who isn’t Juggernaut can deal with her. Second, there’s the situation with Hijack. Cyclops kicked his ass out for breaking the rules. Granted, it was a really trivial rule involving cell phones, but it had more merit than half the rules in my old high school so he makes sure to acknowledge that. But he also acknowledges Hijack’s heroics and his desire to be an X-man. Since he’s way more merciful than any of the administrators in my old high school will ever be, he welcomes David Bond back into the X-men. It’s a nice moment that shows Cyclops is willing to be reasonable with those who break the rules. Lastly, there’s Magneto, but he’s got his own solo series so he pretty much deals with his own situation. I’m sure he said “I got my own solo series so I’m outta here, bitches. Have fun dealing with another messed up blonde.”
Speaking of said messed up blonde, Dazzler’s deep sounds and shitty coping skills continue in the bathroom. She’s like a heroin addict going into withdrawal or a hooker locked in Charlie Sheen’s bathroom. She pissed off at herself and everyone around her, but hasn’t figured out a way to deal with it that doesn’t involve enough prescription medications to kill Rush Limbaugh. It doesn’t help that she couldn’t find Mystique and take her anger out on her. All she can do is just stand around being fucked up and pissed off. It’s like being a teenager again, minus the acne. And it gives her a chance to reflect on who she once was and what she has become. She used to be this tacky disco queen who was created long after disco died a horrible yet timely death. Now what is she supposed to be? I’m pretty sure disco would be the least healthy option at this point, but what she’s doing isn’t working either and this is a story that promises to unfold in plenty of disturbing ways over time.
I’m excited about the future for Dazzler, as fucked up she may be. I can’t say I’m quite as excited about the story for this Matthew guy. He was clearly more fucked up than most after the Skrull invasion. I imagine most folks in the Marvel universe have become pretty numb to that shit by now, but Matthew isn’t. And when he just happens to run into an old friend in South Carolina, he randomly explodes in some fucked up pink energy blast. I really have no other way to describe it. I want to feel bad for the guy and thin he’s going through some shit, but for all I know his girlfriend left him because he was secretly eating live puppies for breakfast. I’m not going to make assumptions and just smoke an extra joint to make this more interesting than it really is.
Back to the legal issues, the last will and testament of Charles Xavier is ready and I’m sure every asshole in the Jean Grey Institute is fully clenched. There’s actually some attempt to lighten the mood when She-Hulk asks if they’re really sure Xavier is dead. Considering how Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Psylocke have all died and come back recently, I’m sure there are some fucked up laws in the Marvel universe governing the revolving door that is death. For the moment, the X-men are going to say that Charles Xavier is as dead as Paulie Shore’s acting career. But there are still a few fucked up legal hoops they have to jump through. It just wouldn’t be American if there weren’t. So She-Hulk reveals that Cyclops, the same Cyclops they all want to throw in jail, needs to be present for this. I imagine Xavier thought he would die in many fucked up ways, most likely death by bitter ex-lovers and illegitimate children. But he probably never thought he would die by Cyclops’ hands, which only makes everyone’s asshole clench even harder. I would have loved to see how they would go about explaining this, but sadly we don’t get to see it. The comic ends somewhat abruptly before we can know just how much more an asshole Xavier was. I don’t know if I should be relieved or disappointed. I probably won’t know that until I’m hung over tomorrow morning.
In the end, I didn’t need to brace myself for this issue, which was kind of a let-down. It was like being blindfolded and thinking I’m about to get a lap dance from hot stripper only to find out someone’s dog was sniffing my crotch. But the promise of a hot stripper is still there with this issue, metaphorically speaking. The main goal of this issue was to reveal the existence of Xavier’s will and set everything up so that the impact is maximized. The secondary goal was to build on the events of recent issues. After so many plots converged, now there’s plenty of room to create new ones. Some are more interesting than others. I don’t know how interesting Tempus’ bitching and moaning can be, but I’m certainly interested in seeing how Dazzler thinks changing her pretty blonde look makes for an effective coping skill. There are a lot of goals here that build from previous issues. It’s not as balanced as it could be, but they’re told in a way that’s fairly concise and compelling. I give Uncanny X-men #23 an 8 out of 10. It really didn’t have that many flaws and in this day and age, that counts for a lot. It just didn’t have that kick-in-the-balls moment that was promised. That moment is still set to come and like a gay porn star hiding in Channing Tatum’s shower, I intend to keep my balls ready for when the moment arrives. Nuff said!